It’s the same every day at the moment. The first job of the morning is to put out bird food, dump the half an inch of ice in their water dish and refill it. There is a growing pile of ice next to the dish and it doesn’t look like melting any time soon, but the cold weather doesn’t stop the birds from bathing. Imagine it - bathing outside, during mid-winter, in cold water. It may not seem quite rational to us, but the birds need to bathe to keep their feathers in good condition, so winter baths are vital.
If you want to get fancy, you can buy thermostatically controlled water heaters for bird baths, but there are other, cheaper methods. A small ball floating on the surface of the water helps some of it stay ice-free, as does a night-light candle under the bath (which needs to be protected from breezes). Here, I sit the bath in the top of a black plastic pot of insulating compost. It still freezes during the night, but stays ice-free in the day time.
While other parts of the country have had impressive falls of snow, in Oxfordshire we have had the merest dusting, less than the sprinkling of icing sugar you’d get on a sponge cake, so we took pleasure in visiting family in Lincolnshire for Christmas, where they’d had proper snow. The snow in the garden was untrodden by humans, until I got there anyway, but on going to look around, I saw the tracks of both cats and rabbits and noticed that the rabbits used the same well-trodden (or hopped?) routes, while the cats’ tracks showed that they tended to wander about more.
The caterpillar is still with us! I’ve been feeding it a variety of cabbage leaves and wonder if it might have grown a little bit. We don’t see it move very often, but can tell that it does because of the trails of compost that appear over night on the cabbage leaves. At the moment it is curled up under a domed piece of Savoy cabbage. I have to admit that I nearly took it away with us for Christmas, but ended up giving it extra greenery and leaving it at home. It's asleep at the moment, but I'll take another photo of it for the next blog.